SALT LAKE CITY — As the holidays approach, thousands of Utahns may be surprised to learn that Utah State Treasurer Richard K. Ellis currently holds unclaimed items and property valued at $375 million in more than 2 million claimable accounts.
Sound like a scam? Is it too good to be true? Not so, according to administrator Dennis Johnston of the Unclaimed Property Division.
Even with signs of a recovering economy, Americans continue to surf the Internet in search of forgotten or lost assets. With more than $41 billion in unclaimed property nationwide, the search terms “missing money” and “unclaimed property" rank in the top 10 in relative popularity.
Since the program’s inception in 1957, the division has reunited owners or heirs of deceased owners with unclaimed money, items and property held in Utah. Since 1984, approximately $153 million has been returned to owners or their heirs.
Unclaimed property refers to money and other assets held by financial institutions or companies that have lost contact with the property's owner for a specific period of time. State law requires these institutions to report on a regular basis and deliver unclaimed property to the State Treasurer's Office. Thereafter, it is held until the owner or heir of the property is found.
Hosting more than 111,000 visitors on its website in fiscal year 2013 with more than 720,000 distinct page views, the Unclaimed Property Division processed and returned more than $12 million in claims, according to statistics the division submitted to Deseret Media Companies. In the quarter ending Sept. 30, the division processed almost $3 million in claims.
“We have fully integrated social media in our outreach efforts to reunite even more owners with their lost or unclaimed property,” Dennis Johnston, administrator for the Unclaimed Property Division, said Wednesday. “I’ve seen good results in using this approach and intend to do more in an automated fashion in the future.”
“I highly recommend going to this site and claiming your property if your name is on it. I did, and I received over $2,100,” Marcia Lunneberg said on Facebook. “It is totally worth it and very easy to do.”
Utah is one of 40 states that participate in a program endorsed by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, an organization that proactively seeks owners of missing money and unclaimed property. A quick visit to MissingMoney.com or Unclaimed.org can quickly determine whether you have missing money or unclaimed property being held by a participating state.
When searching, be sure to check each state in which you have resided and every name you have used. Be sure to include spelling variations as accounts sometimes contain different spellings or typographical errors. Be sure to search for deceased relatives as heirs are often surprised to learn something has been left behind by the departed.
If a match is found, an online claims form must be completed, printed, and mailed with supporting documentation for processing. Although there is no statute of limitations on making a claim, the Unclaimed Property Division does not pay interest on accounts.
“Utahns should account for every penny," Ellis told the Deseret News. “I encourage all Utahns to visit our website at www.mine.utah.gov. With 2 million unclaimed items, chances are good we are holding cash or property for you, your business, or someone you know.”
Bill Lewis is principal of William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates, a solutions-based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity.